Two words: absolutely not. Two more words: absolutely ridiculous.
Lincoln never hit Robert like that, and in fact the Lincolns did not practice corporal punishment of their children at all. Their parental philosophy was “Let the children have a good time,” to which nearly everyone in Washington responded with the comment that the Lincolns’ two youngest sons, Willie and Tad, were a couple of spoiled brats.
In fact, having spent 10 years researching and writing a biography of Robert Lincoln, I can claim with certainty that everything about Robert Lincoln in that movie was incorrect, except maybe his name. But actually, even his name was wrong in the sense that Sally Field’s Mary Lincoln called him “Robbie.” Neither of the Lincolns ever called him Robbie. Nor did Robert have a mustache. Nor was he such a rude, angry, stuck up prig as portrayed in the movie.
The portrayal of Mary Lincoln, on the other hand, was spot-on. She was smart, strong, witty and sarcastic; but also vulnerable, pitiable and self-indulgent. So was the real Mary.
There are numerous accolades and further criticisms I could give this movie, but space constraints force me to limit myself. But there were so many great aspects: the sets, the costumes, the characters and even the comic relief. Tommy Lee Jones’ portrayal as firebrand Congressman Thaddeus Stevens was especially memorable.
As anyone who knows me knows well, I am not afraid to give my opinion on things when asked. So anyone who wants to hear more of my Lincoln ramblings or wants some suggested reading (such as “Tad Lincoln and his Father,” by F. Lauristan Bullard, for a wonderful look at Abe and Tad in the White House, which the movie so heart-warmingly showed), let me know — just be prepared the onslaught of my answers…
Jason Emerson is editor of the Skaneateles Press. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.